Initiatives gather impetus across the spectrum
In this annual LAWE recycling sector review, which complements our Preview of RWM 2005, there is good news of progress on many fronts of campaigns and initiatives which are setting the UK on track to meet national goals for waste minimisation and recycling. Editor Alexander Catto reports.
All roads on the recycling trail lead to and from WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) which held an open meeting last month in London to report on progress made during 2004-05.
Launching its latest annual Achievements Report, which providing a platform to discuss key recycling and resource efficiency issues affecting the UK, WRAP cited its major major achievements during the last financial year, including the delivery of 1.8 million tonnes of new recycling capacity and an estimated 22% increase in the reprocessing of glass into higher value markets.
Speaking at the meeting, Jennie Price, Chief Executive of WRAP, said: "We have made a number of technological breakthroughs this year, challenging the barriers and preconceptions about issues such as recycled plastic in food contact packaging."
She described a successful WRAP project which has seen the development of a cost-effective process to produce food-contact approved recycled HDPE (high density polyethylene) from recovered plastic milk containers. A major international project with partners including the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, Dairy Crest UK, Nampak Plastics Ltd and the Food Standards Agency, the work is an innovative example of closed loop recycling in the plastics sector.
"Another key area where we have made progress in is the procurement of recycled products by the construction sector, a difficult sector to reach because of its size," the WRAP Chief Executive added, "earlier this year we held a number of high level Reconstruct briefings for senior personnel in the industry which attracted 160 clients and specifiers responsible for £11 billion of construction procurement. These events have proved highly influential, with 75% cent of attendees indicating that they are now interested in working with WRAP on setting recycled content requirements for their projects.
"All of these are significant breakthroughs which will bring us closer to meeting the EU Landfill Diversion targets for 2010," she said.
As well as launching the Achievements Report, which represents a mid-term look at the progress made by WRAP in delivering the work outlined in its Business Plan 2004/06, the open meeting also provided a platform for delegates, WRAP members and industry spokespeople to engage in a series of debates and discussions. These focused on key recycling issues such as waste minimisation, colour issues in glass recycling and the challenges involved in promoting sustainable procurement.
WRAP is currently running 15 programmes. Twelve are focused on market development, and comprise nine material streams (paper, plastics, glass, wood, organics, aggregates, tyres, plasterboard and batteries) and three generic areas (business and finance, procurement, and regional market development). Three new programmes relate to the wider resource efficiency remit - collections, communications and awareness, and waste minimisation.
Recycled woodchip research
New research by WRAP has highlighted a chronic lack of knowledge within the landscaping industry about the potential for recycled woodchip to be used as a loose surfacing material.
Only three per cent of landscaping specifiers, purchasers and professionals are aware of the potential for recycled woodchip, to be used as a loose surfacing material, according to new research commissioned by WRAP among key decision-makers from local authorities, landscaping contractors and landscape architects in support of its work to promote the benefits of using recycled woodchip as a mulch for plant beds and as a surface material for pathways and play areas.
The research also showed that usage of recycled woodchip was even lower, at 2%, with the main reasons cited by respondents for not using the product being that they were unaware of it, they had never considered it and that it was not available to them.
Many, however, said that they would be motivated to switch to recycled woodchip because it is environmentally friendly; cheaper and more cost effective; or if it had been requested by a client.
Of the small proportion with first-hand experience of working with recycled woodchip, the findings were overwhelmingly positive as they considered the product to be good value for money and easy to install.
Consumption of wood in the UK is estimated to be approximately 47 million tonnes per year, while waste wood generated is estimated at 10.5 million tonnes. Currently only 1.2 million tonnes per annum are being recycled.
LAs recycle aerosols
There was more encouraging news from BAMA (the British Aerosol Manufacturers' Association, whose latest survey indicates thatover 75% of local authorities are now recycling aerosols.
BAMA reports that a further 48 local authorities in the UK have widened their metals recycling services to include empty aerosols during the past twelve months. BAMA provides help and support to all LAs by providing free information and literature via its recycling resource pack on its website www.bama.co.uk. Material can be downloaded and then customised for each local authority. The literature includes artwork for labels, recycling boxes and supporting text and illustrations for other promotional literature.
Dr Paul Jackson, Technical Manager at BAMA, said: "These figures are very encouraging. Just four years ago we estimated that only 7% of aerosols were being collected for recycling in the UK. Recycling empty aerosols does not require a new scheme. They should simply be collected safely with other metals and these latest figures illustrate that this message is getting through to more and more councils."
Peter Cockburn, Community Waste Officer with Breckland Council, says: "Successful recycling schemes are the result of good communications and public participation. The success of our scheme is reflected in the 2003/4 DEFRA figures with a recycling rate of 28% compared to 10% the year before. This has put Breckland into the top 10 improved councils in the UK".
Each year the UK uses around 600 million aerosols, with is equivalent to about ten cans per person; in total this represents over 30,000 tonnes of reclaimable high grade metal that can be recycled each year. Approximately 65% of aerosols are made from tin-plated steel, and the rest from high-grade aluminium.
Aluminiun can initiative
Novelis Recycling has provided a new aluminium can processing line to assist in the recovery of aluminium cans from kerbside collections across the North East. The equipment, funded by PRN revenue, has been provided as part of Novelis Recycling's ongoing support of the "End User Consortium" headed by Abitibi-Consolidated Recycling Europe.
The End User Consortium brings together the leading re-processors of used newspapers and magazines, packaging and textiles, to guarantee local authorities a secure and sustainable market for their recyclables
Abitibi-Consolidated Recycling Europe's contractor, Ward Recycling, is processing material generated by three North East kerbside schemes at its Middlesbrough site. The material from around 110,000 households in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland is now being sorted at these premises prior to despatch to the Novelis Recycling regional aggregation centre in South Shields.
Due to the expansion of the councils' kerbside schemes over the past 18 months, Ward has seen a marked increase in volumes of aluminium cans being recycled. The loan of new sorting equipment enables a more streamlined and efficient processing operation, helping to prevent contamination from other materials.
Abitibi-Consolidated Recycling Europe Scheme Supervisor Barry Dean says: "The new equipment is already helping us immensely. The sorting line will ensure that the growing volume of aluminium cans we are collecting are efficiently extracted, are not contaminated and meet the Novelis quality specifications."
Novelis, which was spun-off by Alcan Inc in January 2005, is the global leader in aluminium rolled products and aluminium can recycling.
The investment in can processing equipment is part of Novelis Recycling's continuing support of the UK's aluminium can collection infrastructure.
Mixed plastic and cans
Corus is investing in new plant at Baylis Recycling's site to extract an estimated 1,500 tonnes of steel per annum from the 100 tonnes a week of mixed plastics and cans Baylis will receive from local authorities. An industrial magnet and can baler provided by Corus using steel PRN revenue will enable the Environment Agency-accredited plastics reprocessor to extract steel cans from incoming mixed plastics and cans.
The deal follows Baylis Recycling's recent installation of a two-tonnes-per-hour sorting system that enables local authorities to supply post-consumer mixed waste consisting of plastic bottles and cans. "Our mixed stream recycling capability will help local councils to reach their recycling targets more quickly, as the weight of mixed plastic bottles and cans - the transportable tonnage - is typically 40% higher than plastics alone," says Baylis Recycling Managing Director Chris Baylis.
This latest enhancement to its service follows Baylis' installation earlier this year of a plastics recycling facility valued at £3 million, and featuring washing and flaking lines with a reprocessing capacity of up to 15,000 tonnes per annum.
The first carton recycling project in Wales has now been launched. The partnership between the Liquid Food Carton Manufacturers Association (LFCMA), Carmarthenshire County Council and Carmarthenshire Recycling will collect fruit juice, soup, sauce and milk cartons, to be recycled into paper carrier bags and composting sacks.
This partnership is the latest in a growing number in the UK, working to reduce the amount of cartons that end up in landfill. It makes the most of the pioneering local authority and community sector partnership approach to sustainable waste management in Wales.
Collection points have been set up at civic amenity sites throughout Carmarthenshire, and cartons are also being picked up from schools taking part in the initiative. Diane Thomas, Sustainability Officer at Carmarthenshire, was delighted at how easy the scheme was to put in place: "We're asking the public to 'wash and squash' the cartons so that they take up less space and are more pleasant for collectors to handle. The LFCMA offers long-term support, making it simple for the partnership to work. We get help with press releases, and they will be providing free juice drinks at this year's Sustainable Development Festival in Llangelli."
Environment Executive Board Member Cllr Pam Palmer said: "I am delighted by this new initiative and we will continue to roll out schemes so that all areas of Carmarthenshire are covered in time."
Cartons are 100% recyclable, and are the only food and drink packaging made principally from a renewable source. Creating further carton recycling services such as these will help raise the UK's low carton recycling rate. Countries such as Sweden and Belgium are already recycling up to 68% of their used cartons, but the
UK only recycles nearly 2%.
The LFCMA is committed to improving this figure and community and local authority schemes are already using their hubs to transport cartons to the Smith Anderson reprocessing facility in Fife which has the capacity to transform over 10 million cartons into carrier bags every week (a fifth of all the cartons used in the UK). The LFCMA is keen to help set up as many schemes as possible and welcomes opportunities to discuss new ideas.
Just three per cent of a full drinks carton's weight is packaging and when empty used cartons are easy to flat pack for transportation, saving harmful vehicle emissions during transportation for recycling.
Local authorities can save money by recycling cartons. Angus County Council saw its total recycling collection tonnages rise from 6.1 to 36.1 tonnes after adding cartons to the kerbside collection rounds, avoiding substantial landfill tax penalties.
The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) is an international coalition of ten manufacturers of paperboard and paper cartons who work together to actively promote the consumer and environmental benefits of the beverage carton.
In the UK, ACE works under the banner of the LFCMA with environmental, government and industry partners in the areas of packaging and recycling.
Two of the UK's most innovative not-for-profit companies are combining their knowledge and expertise in the redistribution and recycling of both office furniture and computer equipment, to benefit organisations at home and abroad.
Digital Links International and Green-Works hope that businesses will come to view them as a "one-stop shop" for cost effective and environmentally friendly disposal solutions, when moving office, downsizing or replacing old equipment.
They have previously worked together on a highly successful project in Ghana,
which saw more than 200 computers and desks find a new home in a school.
Digital Links International secures the donation of redundant PCs from private
and public organisations in the UK, refurbishes and provides them at low cost
to schools, community centres, hospitals and social enterprises in developing countries. It represents a low cost way of managing redundant computer equipment and gives companies a guarantee that their computers will help to transform the educational and economic opportunities of thousands of young people in Africa and other developing countries.